Daniel J Vance

In 1974, 16-year-old Todd “Odie” Bode was a backseat passenger when a “drunk driver came whipping across the lane and hit us head-on,” said 52-year-old Bode in a telephone interview. “My big brother was driving. All I remember is my big brother’s girlfriend yelling, ‘He’s going to hit us.’ I went between the bucket seats, hit my head against the dash, and was out like a light.” He remained in a coma nearly three months and spent another three months undergoing rehabilitation in a hospital.

Emotionally, he went through angry and depressed periods post accident, in part because he felt the drunk driver had stolen parts of his life. For example, he was no longer able to hunt or fish, two favorite activities.

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“And at first my short-term memory was so bad I couldn’t walk down to the corner without getting lost,” he said. “I went back to high school that year, but had to take mostly special education-type courses. Every morning, someone from homeroom had to walk me to special education.”

Over the years, he has tried working minimum-wage jobs, but his poor short-term memory makes even part-time work virtually impossible. Some people have accused him of taking illegal drugs because his TBI symptoms, i.e., poor short-term memory, communication abilities, and coordination, mimic those of a drug abuser.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website states that traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden trauma causes brain damage. Some common disabilities arising from TBI can include difficulties in thinking, memory, and reasoning; sensory processing; understanding and expressing communication; and behavioral or mental health issues.

He said, “I have also had people complain about me receiving (government assistance) because they don’t believe I’m brain injured. When they complain, I just take off my baseball cap and say, ‘See the scars from my head injury, where they chopped into my brain?’ That’s pretty effective when I show them the scars.'”

To get through life on a day-by-day basis, he leans heavily on caring members of his local church and on his pastor, the latter who gives him free rides most weeks to Wal-Mart for shopping.

He had heartfelt advice for readers: “The biggest thing to remember is don’t drink and drive,” he said. “A lot of people drink alcohol and get behind a wheel.”

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